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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Teachers may strike

It is reported in the Western Mail this morning that teachers in some schools across Wales are considering strike action over the implementation of Teaching and Learning Responsibility (TLR) payments, a part of the workload agreement negotiated with some teaching unions at Westminster.

According to NUT Cymru Union secretary, Gethin Lewis, half of Wales's 28,000 teachers claim a management allowance of up to £10,000. These will be replaced by TLRs, but the new allowances will be fewer in number and may not be as much money. At the same time schools will have to run the old and new system side-by-side for three years as a transitional period. This could add to the cost of running the school with no extra money being made available to cover those costs.

Mr Lewis said, "Unfortunately, in primary and secondary schools, there is not enough money to carry on paying teachers who currently have responsibility payments.

"As a result of this ill-thought-out, badly managed Westminster initiative, many teachers in Wales are going to be facing substantial pay cuts.

"Not only will their pockets be hit but teachers' morale and motivation will receive a severe blow.

"It cannot be good for education in Wales. NUT Cymru will not hesitate to arrange strike ballots in schools where members request it."

When the secondary legislation came before the Assembly in July the Welsh Liberal Democrats were the only group to vote against it. We did so for many of these reasons, but ultimately that vote was a gesture because this is another issue the Assembly does not have the power to change. It was worthwhile, however, airing the issues and registering our objections:

Peter Black: ...............we have concerns about the funding of these regulations and their implications. If there is to be a three-year period during which the old system and the new system will run side by side, there needs to be an assurance that schools will be able to cope with that and to fund it appropriately.

The teaching unions may well be in favour of this, but I am aware of a number of teaching staff who are not so in favour of it because of the impact on their jobs. I have had discussions with some teachers at a particular school, and it is possible that some senior staff who are on leadership scales could see a drop in their salaries of between £8,500 and £12,000 a year because of the redesignation of allowances and the bringing in of the teaching and learning responsibility payment. Although they will have a three-year period during which their salaries are safeguarded, at the end of that period, unless they are able to secure promotion or some other change in their work, they will be in a situation whereby, effectively, they are taking a massive cut in their salaries, and they will find themselves greatly disadvantaged in terms of the money that they are taking back.

What happens next is in the hands of the unions, the LEAs and the Government. At the very least there needs to be a recognition that there will be additional costs to schools during the transition period and that these costs should be met centrally. Let us hope that the Minister sees some sense.
And of course we are still waiting the introduction of three year funding. Without it schools are left constantly trying to second guess what may or may not happen in the following year.

Governors have yet again been left to grapple with the very complex issues involved and take some very difficult decisions in relation to this. (As a Governor myself of two schools at the opposite ends of the scale, one a small Infant school the other a reasonably sized very progressive Secondary I have first hand experience of the problems)

An inordinate amount of Headteachers and senior management time is being taken up by planning for TLR, this on top of the demands imposed by the workload agreement, which detracts from the main aim - to educate!
Is this agreement to bring in TLR not largely driven by the need to ensure equal pay for work of equal value so that people are actually paid on the basis of the contribution they put in rather than length of service or similar considerations?

Equal pay creates losers as well as winners, but I hadn't realised the Lib Dems were opposed to it. Perhaps Peter would like to clarify his position?
My position is fairly clear from the post. It is worth stating though before I spell it out that current management allowances are not handouts based on length of service as Welsh Spin implies but money paid for specific extra responsibilities.

I am not opposed to TLR as such but what I want to ensure is that there is an adequate transition period so that those teachers who are currently receiving allowances but are not getting a TLR do not suffer a large drop in salary after three years.

I would also like some assurances that schools will receive funding from WAG to cover any additional costs of implementing TLR and of the transitional period. Because neither of those points were covered by the Minister we voted against the legislation.
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